The Diadone Method
Chapter 18 – Troll
Author's note: I hope you're all still staying safe and staying home when you can. Thank you all so much for your reviews and favorites, you are really helping keep me motivated when I can't go anywhere. I hope you enjoy chapter 18!
The Halloween feast had been going wonderfully when it was very rudely interrupted.
Quirrel came bursting through the doors, "Troll! In the dungeons! Thought you ought to know." Then he fainted dead away.
Nio exchanged glances with Neville and the twins. By now they knew about six different ways to incapacitate a troll, only a few of which were destructive to the area around it. There was also quite the collection of students who had not only successfully passed the troll, but were actively participating in the Duelling Society. Did they want to leave this to the teachers?
As pandemonium broke out around them and Dumbledore ordered them back to their common rooms while taking the professors out of the hall, Neville's eyes widened. "Nio, the Slytherin and Hufflepuff common rooms are in the dungeons!"
"Shit!" Nio then used his not inconsiderable amount of power to wandlessly close and lock the doors. Because of all the screaming, he had no way of mass-alerting the other houses to their danger and explaining why they shouldn't leave the hall. He tapped Scruffs on the head, "Go to Draco and Blaise, tell them to get their prefects to tell the house to stay put. Break your cover if needed."
Nio was just about to turn to the twins (who knew more people in Hufflepuff) but they had already moved to the prefects at that table. A quick look up the Gryffindor table had him revising his opinion of Hermione Granger (again), she had obviously also realized Dumbledore's stupidity and was currently standing on a bench, reaming out their prefects for trying to take students out into the halls when there was a troll around. Not only did she hold the record for fastest time through The Gauntlet but she was also not afraid to question authority when needed! They would have to find a way to get her into the Duelling Society ASAP.
Draco nearly wet his pants when Scruffs appeared in front of him and Blaise and then used the shadow of a pillar to change into a man. "Fucking hell!"
Blaise stifled a yell and resisted from punching the strange man in the face.
"Ignore the fact that I'm a person not a cat and remind your prefects that your common room is in the dungeon. Have them pass the message to Ravenclaw." Sirius said, accompanying his words with a silent compulsion and a pay-attention-to-me spell. He then quickly grabbed Quirrel's prone form and unceremoniously dumped it in a side hall, if the dolt was going to faint from just seeing a troll, he could hang out somewhere else.
As the hall started to quiet a little, Hermione looked around to see why. Turns out, Diadone and his friends had somehow managed to get a message to the other prefects and they were calming the students. Interesting.
The Head Girl and Boy finally managed to connect at the front of the hall. With a Sonorus, Margaret began. "First, I'd like to thank whoever pointed out that it was safer in here. Everyone, please take a seat. Prefects, please do a head count and if someone's missing, raise your hand."
They waited for a moment as the different prefects identified all the students. Thankfully, everyone was present and accounted for. The numbers of sweets at the Halloween feast usually ensured high attendance.
"Oh good!" Walker, the Head Boy said in relief. "Now, I want everyone to stay clam. First years, please come to the front of the hall, second years next, then third, etc. I want the seventh years to be closest to the door, be ready to cast shield and stunning spells. Sixth years, I was groups of three on each side door, you should be ready."
Margaret took over, "Also, anyone who has had a successful encounter with a troll please join the seventh years." Walker looked at Margaret strangely, when would any of the students have encountered a troll? She shook her head and made a mental note to introduce Walker to Diadone and his cohorts. "Before you ask, no, I cannot explain further."
Walker decided to interrogate Margaret later – when they weren't in danger without professors to protect them – and continued to speak to the hall. "We do not know why the Headmaster ordered us back to the dorms. All I can think of is that those are some of the safest places in the school and he just forgot the halls were where the danger is." Personally, he was very disappointed in Dumbledore for not thinking of the students first. He was the Headmaster for crying out loud, he was supposed to take care of them!
Margaret took over. "We will wait here for the professors to deal with the troll. I want you to be ready for anything. Hopefully we won't need to act but you never know, it could have left the dungeons."
Those were famous last words. As soon as Margaret had suggested the troll might find them, there was a resounding crash against the doors. Thankfully, whoever had shut and locked them had done a good job and they didn't come to pieces. "Morgana's tits!" She exclaimed.
Walker didn't even bat an eyelash at Margaret's language. "Get ready! Those doors might be strong but it's a troll out there." When the crashing seemed to double in speed and intensity, he added, "Or maybe two..."
Nio, in the meantime, had slowly made his way to the doors and was now in front of the seventh years. "Stand back." He ordered, using a combination of his father's 'Mess With Me and You're Dead' voice and the Sonorus charm. Evan's silent authority spell took care of any lingering doubts in the older students' minds. They all took a few steps back.
Nio raised both his hands and yelled at the top of his lungs, "Protego totalum maxima!" The entire hall went silent at the sight that unfolded before them. An opaque wall surrounded the taller-than-usual fist year and quickly grew in size until it was sealed up against the walls, ceiling and floor of the Great Hall. Even Nio was impressed with his work, this was one of the first times he had ever put everything into an actual spell. Usually he made it up as he went or just halfheartedly went through the motions.
Instantly, the doors completely stopped shaking and they could no longer feel the walls tremor. If it weren't for the sound of what everyone guessed was a club or two on the doors and loud grunting, they wouldn't even know anything was out there.
As one, the whole hall looked at Antonio Diadone. Up till now, most people had seen him as the annoying kid who could obviously be the best in the class but didn't bother. Some thought of him as the mafia kid, or the Muggle-born who's apparently dangerous, others as the kid who doesn't know what should count as a pet, or what should count as a game. Those opinions had just been revised.
Nio resisted the urge to turn himself invisible just to avoid the entire student body's stares. For once in his short but interesting life, Nio didn't know what to say. He settled on, "So, um, yeah." It sounded so unsure that knew he'd never hear the end of it from Evan.
"What the hell was that?!" A Slytherin prefect yelled.
"I think we'd all like to know the answer to that." Margaret said, wondering what else the small boy could be hiding. (Besides the obvious running of a gauntlet on the third floor...)
Before Nio could figure out how to not answer their question, he was mobbed by curious students who apparently trusted his spell work enough to ignore the troll(s?). While he may not have liked the attention, Nio had to admit they weren't giving him a chance to respond to any of them, a small mercy.
"Just stop!" Nio called. "I can't even think with you all yelling at me!" The hall quieted and thinking on his feet and lying through his teeth, Nio continued, "Thank you. Now, I'm not entirely sure what I just did except that I've been studying magic a little longer than usual and I've always had a knack for protection spells. I panicked and my familiar helped." By this time, Evan was back as Scruffs and leaning on Nio's leg.
People were still suspicious but they settled down and when it became obvious that they were both safe and going to be there for a while, they tidied up a bit and then continued with the feast. Of course, there was now no adult supervision and that feast ended up going down in history as not only a troll attack, but also the Halloween Food Fight of 1991. After most people had finished eating the students had formed two groups, since the houses were all mixed up from the initial confusion and then defensive rank building, it ended up that there were Slytherins working with Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs with Ravenclaws, all the houses were mixed. This happened more and more as the evening progressed and the food on people's uniforms made it hard to tell what house they were from.
About an hour after Nio had sealed the hall, Fawkes – Dumbledore's phoenix – burst into the hall looking a bit singed. It dropped a smoking piece of red parchment then flashed away with a deafening screech. Percy Weasley was nearest the letter so he pushed it open with his foot before jumping out of the way.
"Whoever warded the hall, take down your defenses now or be prepared for a full assault!" Dumbledore's voice boomed.
Everyone looked for Nio who emerged from behind an overturned table in the corner covered in what looked like pumpkin guts and whipping cream. He gave a slightly apologetic shrug and waved his hand, causing the shield to disappear and doors come crashing open.
The students were greeted by two dead trolls and their professors, soaking wet, covered in soot, and looking determined to face anything. They didn't even bother trying to hide their laughs. It only took a minute or so for the adults to realize that the kids were physically fine, and when they did their expressions changed from defensive of their charges to absolutely furious with the mess in front of them.
Severus looked at the disaster that was the Great Hall, "What is going on here?" He asked in a voice that promised pain to the responsible parties. He was already annoyed because when he'd gone to check on the stone, the beast 'Fluffy' had tried to take a chunk out of his leg. Then he got to fight off a troll on the main staircase and another near the entrance to the dungeons because no, one troll just wasn't enough! Then when he finally convinced Albus to check on the students, they found two more trolls and themselves barred from the room entirely. Now they saw the dunderheads having a grand old time while destroying the historic hall.
Albus looked at the carnage in front of him in shock. How could this have happened? How had all the students disobeyed him and stayed in the hall? Why had he not been able to get through the doors when he wanted? Why had they needed to fight to get in? Why had it taken Fawkes so much effort to deliver a message? Then it came to him, there must be some sort of protection that had been activated!
"Children, children. Calm down. There is no need to worry, we have taken care of everything."
All the students bristled at being called children, but it was the fact that this was the man who had tried to send them in to danger that really bothered them! The Slytherins and Hufflepuffs were especially annoyed and the Headmaster would find in the coming years that snakes and badgers had long memories.
Oblivious to the looks being sent his way, Albus continued. "I am happy to see that Hogwarts' Great Hall defense is in good working order."
Minerva was not nearly as blind to the students' animosity, but she was also spitting mad and Albus didn't seem interested in punishing them for destroying the Great Hall. "I cannot believe what you have done. Every single point earned this year is removed, there will be plain food for a month, and you are not leaving this room until it is spotless!" She would admit to herself that the professors had neglected their duties, but that was no excuse for this kind of behavior.
As they cleaned, the students talked among themselves about how Dumbledore had said there was a defense around the hall. They knew that probably wasn't true because Diadone was the one who put the shield up. However, they were so annoyed at their professors that they didn't bother to correct the Headmaster. After a few days, they decided that the most interesting part of the night hadn't been a first year doing things he should have been able to, but rather Hufflepuff's pudding-filled pumpkin bombs. Who knew the fourth year badgers had it in them?
There was also a sense of unity among the students that hadn't been there before, they were all pissed at the same people for once. Also, the more people who attempted The Gauntlet and participated in The Society, the more they came together as a student body. Turns out, having a shared secret is a good way to build friendships and overcome feuds.
Lord Voldemort was pissed (again) and Quirrel was basically being tortured from the inside out for having failed to get to the Stone before Snape headed him off. As soon as he had woken up in a side hall after letting the trolls in (and he was very curious as to how he got there), Quirrel had booked it to the third floor. Only to find that Snape was opening the door to check on that blasted dog. If only he could determine whether or not the man was still loyal!
To make matters worse, instead of sticking to just letting one troll in, Quirrel had thought it would be better to use four. Four! The idea had been to create a distraction, not a battle in the halls! Either way, Voldemort didn't have the Stone and he was still stuck on the back of an idiot's head. The attack had been a failure and he was not pleased.
As they were walking back to the common room, Nio asked Evan, "What is it with the school and trolls? Was it like this while you were here?"
Sirius snorted, "No. The most dangerous thing that happened was duelling in the corridors." He thought for a moment, "Well, actually, there was also Remus, but I'm really sure if he counts."
"He doesn't." Nio said. "From what I've heard, proper safety precautions were taken and the only danger came when your immature ass thought it'd be funny to send someone to their death."
Sirius briefly looked ashamed before reminding himself that while he had been an idiot and a bully in school, there was nothing he could do about it now. He had a new life, a new identity, and had actually managed to grow up (mostly). It helped that everyone thought Sirius Black was dead and he could move on with his life. The one thing he regretted was that he would never be able to actually apologize to Snape for nearly killing him.
When they had finished supervising the students' clean up efforts and had taken quick showers, Minerva and Severus met in Minerva's sitting room to settle their nerves and hash out what happened.
Once they each had a fortified cup of tea, Severus kicked it off. "Minerva, the more I think about what happened, the more confused I get."
"You are not alone there." Minerva responded. "Quirinus said there was a troll in the dungeons but there were actually four and some weren't anywhere near the dungeons. Is there something I should know?"
Severus sipped his tea and tried to decide whether or not to share his suspicions with Minerva. On one hand, she was the most intelligent woman he knew and she would protect the students to her last. On the other hand, she was extremely close to Dumbledore, the man who thought it was a good idea to keep a dangerous artifact in the school. Finally, he sighed. "I don't know anything."
Minerva's eyebrow arched, "But you suspect something."
"Yes." Severus put his cup down a bit harder than necessary. "But I have no proof whatsoever." And wasn't that annoying?
"Tell me." It came out harsh and demanding.
"I think Quirinus is after the stone."
Minerva had not been expecting that. "Why?"
"I've been seeing him lurking around the third floor on a regular basis." Then Severus sighed, in for a sickle, in for a galleon. "I think he wants it for the Dark Lord."
"What?!" Minerva sloshed her whiskey-laced tea all over her robes. "And stop calling him that, you're not a Death Eater anymore."
"Ever since he returned from his travels, he has been different. Off somehow. And there is a slight aura around him that was not there before." Severus explained. "I don't know how or where, but I think he found the shade of ...Voldemort and is either carrying it around with him or is possessed. He has been suspicious lately and hanging around the third floor when he thinks no one is looking. I have no proof and nothing to back up my claims except this strange feeling of familiarity."
Minerva was silent for a good long while. What was she supposed to do with this information? Could she trust Severus' intuition? "It seems awfully convenient, him being here right when the stone is being protected."
"I know." Severus said, a bit a frustration lacing his voice. "I don't understand how Voldemort could have known that the stone was moved here in time to latch on to Quirinus! The only people who knew it was going to be here in advance were you, me, and Albus Bleeding Dumbledore." All the other professors had either been told once it was in place or hadn't been told at all.
A terrible thought occurred to Minerva. "Severus, what if Albus is using the stone as a trap."
It was Severus' turn to spill his tea. No. It couldn't be! Even Albus wasn't that reckless. "You must have some reason to say that." He prompted.
Minerva thought for a moment, could she tell Severus about some of Dumbledore's mistakes without outing Antonio? "What I'm about to tell you goes no further, understand?" After all these years she trusted Severus enough to share a little bit of this with him.
"I will hold it in the strictest confidence."
"Albus has been making mistakes, I think it started with the Potter debacle in '81 and has only gotten worse since then. I cannot share the details, but I know that he is responsible for the boy being missing. I know he's covering up the fact that he has no idea where Potter is and why he didn't show up in September. I know that he routinely attempts to read my mind and has Obliviated staff members on occasion. I know that he purposefully hides information and I suspect that he has been putting blocks on some students' magic."
Severus couldn't believe what he was hearing, but he was also a spy and could read people really well. Especially ones he'd known for years. "You're leaving something out. Something about Potter." He accused.
"Yes, I am." Minerva admitted. "But it is not my story to tell and it is not important right now. What is important is the fact that we just had to get rid of four trolls that were purposefully let into the castle under Albus' nose."
Severus decided to drop the subject for now and get back to the reason they both had had to clean troll guts out of their hair. "Fine. But I will find out sooner or later. Now, please tell me how four XXXX beasts made it passed the wards?"
"Obviously, someone let it in." Minerva said blandly, knowing that the Potter problem would have to be addressed sometime.
"Any guesses as to who?"
"Based on your suspicions, I would have to say Quirinus." Then Minerva paused. "Did you see him at all after we finished with the trolls?"
"I did not." Severus responded, "And I find it highly suspicious that he was missing from the feast and somehow managed to find out about the trolls. Or as he said, troll."
"Me neither. In fact, I haven't seen him since he fainted in the Great Hall." Minerva's disdain for the man was palpable. She did not have a high opinion of Defense professors who fainted at the sight of trouble.
Now knowing that his worries about Quirinus were going to be taken seriously, Severus had no trouble telling Minerva about his following him around. "I actually went straight for the third floor this evening. I thought it might be a distraction, something to let him spend time trying to get past that infernal dog."
'Now isn't that interesting?' Minerva thought to herself. 'Severus must have had his suspicions for a while to ignore the warning about the troll.' Then she spoke, "You have been thinking about this for a while." She commented.
"Yes. Ever since he came back with that absurd stutter."
"Why haven't you said anything?"
"I didn't know if I could trust you. I would have talked to Albus but he has been gone more often than not and when he is here, his mind is elsewhere. Not to mention his actions haven't been lining up with his words since the beginning of the school year."
Minerva was insulted. "What do you mean you didn't know if you could trust me? Why not?"
"You have always been so close to Albus, you wear your heart on your sleeve, and your Occlumency leaves much to be desired. If something was truly wrong, I couldn't have you blundering in." It was only after the words had left his mouth that Severus realized just how much he had said and how very rude it was.
"How dare you!" Minerva shouted. "Never once in my life have I blundered anywhere! I think you are mistaking me for one of the students! I will have you know that I lived through two wars, multiple assassination attempts, a conspiracy beyond all others, and more mental assaults than you have performed in your entire life!"
Severus was speechless. Assassination attempts? Conspiracies? Mental assaults? Just what had his old professor been up to? "What?" He asked faintly.
Minerva deflated, she hardly ever lost control of her emotions. It was just that tonight had been more stressful than anything since the war, and she was not prepared for it. "I'm sorry Severus, that was unfair of me. You had no reason to know my life story, I should not have expected you to. However, since you are in doubt of my ability to keep secrets, I'd like you to try something."
"Break into my mind." Minerva all but demanded.
"I want you to attempt to read my mind. I know you are one of the most powerful Legilimens in the world, just try it."
Severus didn't really understand what this would prove, after all, if he really tried he could break into even Albus' mind. The man would know, and could probably kick him out in a split second, but he could get in. However, Minerva had asked.
"Legilimens." He whispered, looking directly at Minerva, he was nearly immediately given access to her thoughts, nothing but a very basic but powerful barrier in his way. She was angry at his lack of trust in her, worried for the students, upset about Albus' duplicity, and determined to prove herself to Severus. He withdrew quickly, before he could see something embarrassing. "Happy?" He asked after telling her what he found.
Minerva smirked. "Yes. Now try again."
"If you insist." Severus huffed, "Legilimens." And...what? He was met by a massive flashing sign that said 'GET OUT!' Then he was summarily ejected from her mind as a deep, booming version of Minerva's voice bellowed, "AND STAY OUT!"
Severus found himself sitting on Minerva's settee, his ears mentally ringing. He narrowed his eyes and tried a full-on frontal assault. He found that he couldn't even get in. In fact, it was like there wasn't a mind there at all! "Holy mother of Merlin. That's unbelievable!"
Minerva just sipped her tea innocently. "I have no idea what you're talking about." To be fair, mentally she was working on being exhausted. Severus had put quite a bit of power into his last attempt probably, hoping to simply shatter her barriers. It hadn't worked.
"How did you do that?"
"Time. Practice. Paranoia." Minerva explained. "The war against Voldemort may have been terrible, but compared to the lengths Grindelwald was prepared to go...you have no idea." While Voldemort would force his way into your mind, Grindelwald would slip in unnoticed. He could plant just the seed of an idea and it grew and grew until you thought it was yours to begin with. He was the master of manipulation. So many people fell to his influence without even knowing why. I had no intention of being one of them."
Severus was nearly frozen in shock. "I had no idea."
"Most people didn't. I'm not sure even Albus knew the lengths Grindelwald went in his quest for dominion, he always wanted to believe the best of than man." Minerva paused, "But we are off topic again."
"Right. Yes. Trolls." Severus shook his head, there was so much history he didn't know. It really put his life into perspective.
The two then spent the remainder of the evening and most of the night discussing what they knew or suspected about Quirrel, the Philosopher's Stone and Albus' potential trap for Voldemort. The final picture they painted was not a good one. They needed a plan. However, it was a Thursday (well, Friday now) and they had class in the morning.
The third of November rolled around and Nio quickly decided that it was time for his next business venture: contraband. It was very obvious actually. Since the entire student body was being punished for their food fight, everyone wanted something more interesting to eat than porridge, bread, butter, plain chicken, spinach, and water. They were by no means being starved, and thanks to some added potions they were getting all the nutrients they needed, but still, it was boring.
So, working with Evan, Nio created a contraband food network. He provided everything from salt and pepper to chocolate frogs...for a price, of course. The best selling options were treacle tart and Butterbeer. Nio was even starting to plan for when the students were finally served real food. He noted what people liked to buy the most that wasn't even available at Hogwarts when they weren't being punished. It was mostly sweets and drinks.
"Do you think we should bring the others in on this? Make it a full-on mini Marauders operation, like the Gauntlet?" Sirius asked as he and Nio were divvying up the goods into sell-able units.
Nio frowned, "I'm not sure I like that."
"What? Bringing the others in?"
"No, the Mini Marauders. There may be some parallels between us and what you got up to in school, but we are going to be so much more than that." Nio didn't want to just be a junior version of his birth dad's friend group.
Sirius thought for a moment, he couldn't decide if he should be insulted that Nio thought his friends were going to do more than they had, or proud that his godson had bigger goals than just pranking. "What were you thinking?"
Nio smiled, "I have a couple ideas but we'll need everyone here to decide."
Many discussions later, they had agreed that because this was going to continue outside of school, they needed something that would work for adults as well. They also didn't want something that could be immediately identified by the professors as suspicious should someone overhear them.
It was George who got them on the right track. "We're planning on building a sort of company out of this thing? Power and control over the Wizarding world, right?"
Nio was interested, "Keep going."
"Well, as the original members/leaders, we'd be associates. How about The Associates?"
Fred nodded, "Yeah, but if we bring in other people, they might not be actual associates. Just part of the group."
"The Association." Neville said with a tone of finality in his voice. "We'll be The Association."
While Nio was a tiny bit annoyed that it hadn't been his idea, he knew the importance of having proactive, invested and valued...associates. "Yeah. I can get on board with that."
So it was decided, Nio's empire was going to be known as The Association and they would be the Associates.
It was less than a week after the Halloween incident that Draco and Blaise managed to corner Nio and interrogate him about why he wasn't surprised by the troll. When they heard about the Gauntlet they immediately set up a time to attempt it. They couldn't believe that in addition to helping set up the Duelling Society (which they found out about weeks ago), they had either found or created (Nio was vague on the details) an underground obstacle course.
The Slytherins decided to attempt the Gauntlet together. Sure, according to the tapestry there were some people who had done it on their own successfully, but they figured there was safety in numbers especially now the knew there was a troll involved.
There wasn't much excitement when Draco and Blaise ran the Gauntlet, they had decided that as skilled fliers they would try to skip most of the obstacles and both of their interesting childhoods led them to knowing multiple ways to bypass locked doors. All in all, it took a while but was rather anticlimactic.
When they had finished and got a proper look at the portable tapestry in the 'lobby', they were floored by the person in first place. Hermione Granger, know-it-all and teacher's pet extraordinaire, had done the whole thing it one go, on her own, and faster than everyone else! How had so many people completely overlooked her? And what else was she capable of? They couldn't wait for her to join the Society.
Sirius was nervous. It was a rare feeling for him but the task ahead warranted it: he had to tell Sal that Neville knew who he and Nio were. He had put this off for far too long and would have to face the music. Hopefully, all that Evan had done for the Diadones would be enough to save his skin and hopefully his job.
He apparated to his small flat at the Diadone compound and steeled himself. 'Here goes nothing.' He thought to himself.
Turns out he needn't have worried, Sal had apparently been expecting someone else to find out long before now and had planned appropriately. That wasn't to say he was okay with Evan being the one responsible for letting someone know, but he wasn't about to skin him alive.
The two of them spent the rest of the afternoon catching up and Evan filled his boss in on Nio's continuing success and developing ventures and relationships. Sal was inordinately pleased with his son's progress and couldn't wait to see what came from all of it. He even gave Evan and Nio permission to bring in their friends on the conspiracy!
Peter Pettigrew was terrified, he had been sleeping as a rat in the same room as an over-sized cat for over two months now. The cat – Scruffs, apparently – hadn't actually done anything yet but Scabbers was sure it was only a matter of time. Despite the fact that the cat seemed to ignore him most of the time, Peter could feel eyes on him more times than not. He felt stalked! And it had gotten worse in recent weeks.
Sirius lay on Nio's bed pointedly ignoring Wormtail who was being fed scraps of cheese by Ron. He hadn't quite decided what to do about the rat yet, but he knew that he would have to do something before the traitor either died of fright or disappeared. Also, as indifferent as he was towards Ron Weasley, he didn't want to leave Fred and George's younger bother without his apparently much-loved pet. He also didn't want that family to get in trouble, it didn't matter that they had no idea they were harboring a fugitive, the rumors could ruin the Weasleys. Despite their allegiance to Dumbledore, they weren't bad people. They just put their trust in the wrong person.
Finally, he decided that this was not something he should do on his own so after consulting with Nio, he called a meeting of The Association for Friday. The first official meeting, as it were.
"Thank you everyone for coming." Sirius started. "I'd like to call to order the first meeting of the Associates, members of the elite Association."
"Cut the crap, Evan." Nio said, wandlessly tripping him and shoving him into a chair. "Just tell them why we're here."
Sirius huffed, he was not in the habit of being pushed around. Also, he had almost forgotten how scarily casual Nio was with wandless magic. "Fine. There is something you all need to know. You all knows parts, and Neville has pretty much the full story, but I think we should all be on the same page."
Nio rolled his eyes, trust Evan to explain this the hard way. "What Evan means to say is that this information falls under the vows you gave the first night." He waited for nods around the room before continuing, "My birth name is Harry James Potter and Evan's is Sirius Orion Black."
Neville nodded, he had found this out when Evan took him to get his wand. However, he had not been expecting them to share that information quite so soon.
"Wow!" The twins said in unison. "The Marauders are even cooler than we thought!"
"Who are the others?"
Sirius smirked, "You have no idea. There were four of us; me, James Potter, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew." He was pleased that no one seemed inclined to murder him yet.
"Hold on." George started.
"You're supposed to be dead."
"Explain." Fred demanded.
So Sirius did. He explained everything from his wrongful imprisonment, to finding Nio, to finding out Nio was Harry, to coming to school with him. Finally, at the end, he explained their code names.
Neville frowned, "Why are you explaining now?"
The look on Evan and Nio's faces were frightening, "Because we found Pettigrew." Nio said calmly.
Sirius wasn't quite so calm. "The traitor has been hiding in plain sight and we need to take care of him."
Neville's eyes widened, he had already had time to process Evan and Nio's original identities so his brain could focus more on who Pettigrew might be. "A rat." He said. "Pettigrew is a rat and you said he's hiding in plain sight and we have an opportunity to deal with it." He trailed off as he considered the implications of the Weasleys' pet rat being a murderer.
Fred and George also figured it out. "Scabbers." They said in shock.
Sirius nodded, "Yes, Scabbers is Pettigrew."
"That's disgusting!" They said.
Nio took over, "Yes, it really is. However, that's why we wanted to talk with you. Hopefully, you two will have a way of contacting your father so we can reveal his presence without too much damage to your family. We were going to wait a little longer before making a move, but Evan is afraid that Pettigrew is getting so scared of Scruffs that he'll either have a heart attack or run away."
"How did we not notice him on the map?" George asked.
"Yeah, it's not like we've never spied on Ickle Ronnikins before."
"And Perfect Percy."
"He slept in their beds!"
Everyone shuddered at that.
Sirius shook his head, "I have a few theories, mainly that he made sure his name would overlap completely – Wormtail and Weasley could hover over each other fairly well – or he was so far away you wouldn't notice."
"Beyond that, we have no idea." Nio said. "Anyway, we want your advice on how to go about this. We're definitely going to kidnap him ASAP but how do we make sure Ron isn't upset?"
"We also need to make sure that if they give him a trial and use Veritaserum, our involvement is not found out." Sirius continued, "After all, I'm perfectly happy being dead and the world in general is never going to know about Nio being Harry Potter."
After many hours, the Associates had decided to kidnap the rat and replace it with an illusion that would slowly succumb to the stress of living with a massive cat. They would then make it seem as though Pettigrew was so terrified he couldn't keep up his Animagus form. The unveiling (and switch of Pettigrew back to Scabbers) would conveniently occur in the Great Hall in the middle of dinner. Scruffs would yawn at Ron and they'd force Pettigrew to reveal himself.
Step one, the kidnapping, went off without a hitch Saturday afternoon, Evan was given the responsibility of maintaining the illusion. Fred and George were given the responsibility of reminding Ron how old the rat was and writing back to their family about odd behavior concerning Scabbers. Now all they had to do was wait until their illusion looked so sick that it would be believable.
With Pettigrew's cage safely stored away in the Room of Requirement (it was kind enough to provide a wonderful prison), they spent the entirety of the afternoon and evening working out the details of the reveal. They decided that the end of term leaving feast would be the perfect time. That way, students could take the story home to their parents and Dumbledore wouldn't have as much time to try and cover it up. They would also make sure to set it up in such a way that the Weasleys would be seen as victims of a conniving bastard, not gullible people or purposefully hiding a dead man.
Sirius made a mental note to tell Remus about the plan, he didn't want to risk his friend finding out through the news. Remus could also work with Samantha to make sure his name was cleared in the Muggle world too. Supposedly dead or not, Sirius wanted people to know he was innocent!
Author's Note: Huge thanks to LtsHrIt4ThBoyz for the idea of naming Nio, Evan, Neville, Fred and George 'The Association'. To quote them, "The Association ("Meet my Associate, Neville.")". Thank you all for your fantastic ideas!
Also, it has been brought to my attention (thank you ElementalMaster16) that I mentioned in a previous chapter's note that Hermione wouldn't play a large role in this story...well, I changed my mind. As I wrote, I realized that I really wanted a strong female character with a presence at Hogwarts. Kimiko Sensei is only around during the summer, Minerva is a professor and the Charleston sisters don't really have much of an active role in the story. Hence, the introduction of Hermione. However, she will not be a romantic pairing. We won't be seeing any Nio romance for a long while, if at all. I don't know about you all, but I was pretty uninterested in anything to do with romance until I was at least 14/15. I'm already pushing it maturity wise with them all growing up so quickly.